Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Difference 30 Years Makes: iMac with Retina 5K display vs. the Original Apple Macintosh


When first released in 1984, the Apple Macintosh shipped with a black-and-white 512 x 342 display. Fast forward 30 years to the release of the iMac with Retina 5K display, which ships with a 5,120 x 2,880 display with support for millions of colours. That’s an increase from 175,000 pixels to more than 14.7 million – an 8,400% increase. 80 of the original Macintosh displays fit within a single Retina 5K display1.

The stats are astounding, but to really put things in perspective, take a look at the image below, showing the original Macintosh display overlaid on a promotional image that Apple has been using to showcase the massive size of the new iMac’s display. Click the image to view at 100%.

iMac with Retina 5K display vs. Original Macintosh

That tiny black-and-white rectangle crammed into the bottom-left corner was cutting-edge technology three decades ago.

  1. Assuming constant pixel size between the two displays, which obviously isn’t the case. 
Monday, October 20, 2014

iOS 8: The iMore Review   


Rene Ritchie wrote a comprehensive review of Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 8. Here are a few of the new features that impress me the most:


With Handoff, as long as your iPhone and iPad are logged in with the same iCloud account and you’re within range of Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) you can start working on one device, put it down, pick up the other, and keep right on working, right where you left off.


Handoff is available for Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar, Contacts, and third-party App Store apps that add the functionality.

Interactive notifications:

Now, with iOS 8, you can reply to a message right from the banner, accept an invitation right on the Lock screen, or favorite a piece of news directly in Notification Center. Whether you’re playing a game, watching a movie, or editing a spreadsheet, interruption is minimized and app switching is potentially eliminated altogether.

Action extensions:

Now any app can add an action extension that increases the utility and diversity of other apps and of iOS itself.

You’re also no longer forced to, for example, leave Safari, go to 1Password, use the in-app browser, or copy the password to the clipboard and find our way back to Safari just to log into a website. With action extensions, everything just works, right where you need it, right when you need it.

iCloud Drive:

iCloud Drive and its associated Document Picker are new features of iOS 8 that replace the old Documents in the Cloud system with a new one that allows the app you’re using to open files created in a different app, import them, move them, or export them right back out again, all without creating any unnecessary steps, complicated workflows, or duplicate copies.

Everything is still backed up and synced to all your devices, but now everything is also available to all your apps.

Health and HealthKit:

Health is a new, built-in app. It serves as both a repository for all the health-related data accumulated by your iPhone, your apps, and your accessories, and a dashboard to help you make better, more visual sense of it. In other words, Health is a front-end for your quantified life.


In addition to apps that collect and track data, there are apps that let people manually enter data, like what they ate or how they felt at a specific time of day. There are apps that perform statistical analysis and provide graphical reports on data to help you better visualize specific metrics. There are apps from healthcare providers that let you send your information back to them to keep your records up-to-date.

Yet all that data about activity and sleep, diet and nutrition, mood and medication, vital signs and test results, all remains locked into the silos of all those individual apps.

Health and the accompanying HealthKit framework breaks down those silos. It brings together all that data together and puts it all in one, convenient, easy to refer to place.

Shazam with Siri:

Siri, Apple’s virtual personal assistant, didn’t get as many new features as it has in years past, but it did get the ability to identify songs via Shazam. Let Siri listen to what’s playing and Siri will tell you the track’s title and give you the option to buy it from the iTunes Store.

“Hey Siri”:

When your iPhone or iPad is plugged in, you can now choose to activate Siri by voice alone. Just say “Hey Siri”. (Sadly, “Hey, seriously” activates it as well, so perhaps a more distinct term will eventually have to be adopted.) It is great, however, for when Siri is charging at your bedside or on your desk, while you’re driving and plugged in, or while you’re cooking or otherwise have your hands full.

Battery usage:

There’s a new Battery Usage section that, in theory, is similar to OS X Maverick’s battery shaming. However, while things like Phone: Low Signal can show you real sources of battery drain, if you use Tweetbot all day, don’t be surprised if that’s top of your list — not for drain but simply because you won’t stop tweeting.

That said, Battery Usage does show when background activity is the source of power consumption, which can be useful information. As can an app showing up high in the list when you don’t use it much.

New Mail gestures:

Triaging mail on the go has also been improved. New gestures let you quickly swipe right to mark a message as read or unread, or swipe left to flag it, trash or archive it, or to get more options. You can also swipe all the way left to trash it immediately.

Given all the new features in iOS 8, I was a bit overwhelmed when I first started using it. Rene Ritchie’s review does a fantastic job of detailing what’s new. My only complaint is the abundance of spelling mistakes in the article – it would be so much better if someone took the time to give it another edit.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

How the West Views Ebola   


Sophie Kleeman writing for Mic about her interview with Andrew Carrhilo, an illustrator and cartoonist from Lisbon, whose One Powerful Illustration Shows Exactly What’s Wrong With How the West Talks About Ebola:

“People in the African continent are more regarded as an abstract statistic than a patient in the U.S. or Europe,” he said. “How many individual stories do we know about any African patients? None. They are treated as an indistinguishable crowd.”

It doesn’t matter that West Africa has now lost more than 3,400 people to the disease. It is, and always will be, all about us.

I’ve been uncomfortable with a lot of things related to the Ebola outbreak that began almost a year ago, although you would have thought it began just last month based on our recent media coverage. It has been difficult to put what I am feeling down into something concrete as I don’t feel even remotely informed in any meaningful way. However, I do know that part of my discomfort has been the lack of response of Western media to cover the issue when it first emerged in West Africa and now their hyperbolic response to the potential risk that we face here in North America. It was depressing following #Ebola on Twitter last night – it was all about the recent cases in the US and there was virtually no mention of the devastation that continues to occur in West Africa.

I was discussing the Ebola situation with my good friend Alida tonight who then sent me this brilliant article, which eloquently captured the discomfort I was feeling.

HBO to offer stand-alone streaming service in 2015   


Richard Plepler, Chairman and CEO of HBO, referring to the ten million homes in the United States without traditional TV subscriptions:

That is a large and growing opportunity that should no longer be left untapped. It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO.

So, in 2015, we will launch a stand-alone, over-the-top, HBO service in the United States. We will work with our current partners. And, we will explore models with new partners. All in, there are 80 million homes that do not have HBO and we will use all means at our disposal to go after them.

Great news for fans of HBO. Bad news for head-in-the-sand cable companies that continue to resist change.

Apple announces an iMac with Retina Display   



Apple today unveiled the 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display, featuring the world’s highest resolution display with a breathtaking 14.7 million pixels. At this amazing resolution, text appears sharper than ever, videos are unbelievably lifelike, and you can see new levels of detail in your photos. With the latest quad-core processors, high-performance graphics, Fusion Drive and Thunderbolt 2, iMac with Retina 5K display is the most powerful iMac ever made—it’s the ultimate display combined with the ultimate all-in-one.

I’ve been waiting to update my Early 2009 24-inch iMac for quite some time. It looks like that wait is now over. For comparison, the new iMac with Retina 5K Display packs in 600% more pixels than my current iMac1.

If you haven’t already, take a moment to visit Apple’s marketing page for the new iMac on a Mac (I don’t think it works on mobile devices). Scroll down slowly once the page loads to see one of the best uses of web animation I’ve ever seen.


To get an idea just how many pixels fit on the new iMac display, take a look at this image posted by Apple. The image fits on the new iMac display without any scrolling.

  1. The screen on my Early 2009 24-inch iMac has a resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 (2,304,000 pixels) compared to 5,120 x 2,880 (14,745,600 pixels) in the new iMac with Retina 5K Display. 
Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Easy capitalization using iOS 8’s predictive typing   


John-Michael Bond, writing for The Unofficial Apple Weblog:

Let’s say that I forgot to capitalize the word “church” in the text below, and want to do that after the fact. To do this, I simply select the word in question by tapping it twice, tap the shift key, and select the proper spelling from the predictive typing menu.

Now say you want to make a word all upper case letters. Here, you simply tap shift twice once you’ve highlighted the word — effectively activating the caps lock — and predictive text offers up a number of fully-capitalized suggestions as a replacement.

A fantastic tip that saves both time and frustration compared to the traditional method of placing the cursor prior to making an edit.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Get Natural Scrolling in Windows Without Administrator Access


I use a Mac at home but a PC running Windows 7 at work. By default, the two operating systems scroll in the opposite direction in response to the same mouse input and trying to switch between the two is maddening. I prefer the ‘natural’ scrolling on OS X but Windows 7 doesn’t provide a way to flip its scrolling direction without administrator access. This created a frustrating situation when I.T. refused to edit any registry settings or install uncertified third-party software.

Thankfully, I stumbled onto a simple solution today that works without Administrator access:

Long story short, download this, run it and you should be experiencing natural scrolling in its full glory.

If you like it, feel free to stick it in your Startup folder. If you don’t, feel free to press the Delete key. If you don’t feel like running some random .exe, get the AutoHotKey script from here and make your own.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Wall Street’s Bond King Makes Abrupt Departure From Pimco   


Matthew Goldstein, reporting for The New York Times:

William H. Gross, who helped build Pimco from scratch into a $2 trillion mutual fund behemoth over four decades, abruptly quit on Friday for a much smaller firm.

The surprising exit came after Mr. Gross learned in recent weeks that top executives at Pimco and Allianz, the German insurer that owns it, had grown tired of his leadership and were weighing a change.

The Wayne Gretzky of bonds has just been traded.

Time Served   


Harley Rustad, writing for The Walrus:

When its gates shut for the final time in September 2013, Kingston Penitentiary was among North America’s oldest operating prisons. Notorious killers—Paul Bernardo, Clifford Olson, Russell Williams—slept in its cells and exercised in its yards, but James didn’t focus on the lives and personal effects of infamous inmates.

“My whole thing was predicated on privacy,” the former Time magazine reporter turned photographer explains. “Nobody was identified. The inmates all had to sign releases; it took months to get permissions. But I had to get that clear: This isn’t about any of the sensational stuff. It’s about prison life, an institutional historical record, and the physical space.